“Rebekah, stop saying mean words to your sister Hannah! She loves you,” I corrected my oldest daughter a few days ago. We have had quite the battles with the tongue lately.
“Noooo! She does not love me!” Rebekah shouted.
“When I was little, she took my paci out of my mouth and it was sooo rude!”
I looked at Rebekah and had to laugh as it reminded me of her pacifier obsession a few years ago. Weaning her from those green rubber suckers was such a work-out! She found them no matter how well Jeremiah and I hid them. I had no idea she remembered Hannah trying to steal them from her.
The conversation reminded me that some things just don’t die off in life or are that easily forgivable even to a young child. Whether it’s a hurtful word or action, an unmet expectation, or a harm done against us that we just can’t seem to move past, forgiveness is really, really hard. It is an act of the will. It is a choice that we are commanded of in Scripture because we have been forgiven of so much. But that doesn’t mean the sting and pain will disappear over night.
I love what Atlanta-based pastor Charles Stanley once said:
Forgiveness does not recant the fact that what happened to us was wrong. Instead, we roll our burdens onto the Lord and allow Him to carry them for us.
When we remain in bitterness, anger, and resentment, we remain in our chains. But when we choose to break off those chains, rolling our burdens onto the Lord, we find freedom because He is carrying the load for us. We find peace, love, patience, gentleness, joy, abundant life, transformation and more.
It is only in Jesus’ strength that we can truly forgive someone who has deeply wounded us. It is only by His hands that we can walk through the fires that seek to destroy our hearts. And sometimes he asks us to do hard things: To confess our harbored bitterness or go to the person who has offended us. Sometimes, we have to be really brave and forgive ourselves.
Do your wounds run deep from pain inflicted on you or pain that you have caused? They may not be quite as small as a pacifier offense, but don’t neglect that the hurt is real. Last year, I went through a 12-step recovery ministry at our church in Dallas called Regeneration. Our leadership from the front strongly encourages people to go through the program because we all have areas where we struggle. During my time, I had to participate in a personal moral inventory where I had to write down every sin committed against me and every sin I have committed against another.
It was a grueling process. And not only that, I had to confess it to two trusted mentor friends. I somewhat dreaded the evening I was to confess. I was a bit terrified of what my friends would think but to my surprise, it was one of the most freeing and healing moments of my 32 years of life. I was accepted, not judged, and met with compassion and understanding. There was just something about writing my sins down and knowing that Jesus had died for every one of them. My sins were why he had to come. And he loved me unconditionally. And not only my sins, but the sins of the whole world. It was also in that process where I was able to see more clearly what I needed to forgive.
The truth is that forgiveness isn’t always a one time deal. It is something we need a great deal of help on and it doesn’t always mean slapping a band-aid on the wound and saying, “Just forgive. Get over it.” The wounds have to be exposed, brought into the light, and cleaned out deeply before they can fully heal.
Forgiveness is also something that has to be practiced. It’s something of a discipline. All I really know is that it’s something of a God-thing. It is only by His power that we can truly forgive.
Remember that Jesus is always there for you when you need to confess: I hurt. I can’t carry this burden of bitterness anymore. Please help me forgive so that I may live a life of freedom and help others in turn.
What do you need to forgive today? Are you practicing the command to forgive?